In 1848 Nathaniel Hawthorne is married and living in Salem, Massachusetts, a stone's throw from where the alleged witches were hanged in 1692. He is burdened with guilt over his ancestor's involvement in their trial, and bored with the stultifying work in the Custom House. Unable to write anything of significance, he is bitter and depressed. Susan Pryor, a young maid in a wealthy Salem household, aspires to become more than just a maid. Though she finds much pleasure in her fellow maid, with whom she sleeps, and in preparing for fine dinners and parties, she and her friend are still just maids and fair game for the two older sons. She longs to escape, to be more than just a servant. Susan and Hawthorne, the two unhappy Salem residents, meet by chance on Gallows Hill. A spark ignites-and smolders.
In telling her story, Susan becomes more determined to escape her situation and inspire the brooding and mysterious Hawthorne. A Rose on Gallows Hill pictures the life of this enchanting maid in the year before Hawthorne begins writing his masterpiece, The Scarlet Letter. "A Rose on Gallows Hill" pictures the life of this beautiful maid as she enchants the man who will shortly begin writing his masterpiece, "The Scarlet Letter."